Blues Bytes


March/April 2011

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James Kinds
Love You From The Top
Delmark Records

James Kinds

Nearly 35 years ago, James Kinds was listed as one Chicago’s most promising young bluesmen by Living Blues. He had been working since the late ’50s in the Windy City, first with the Soul Seekers, then Little Mack Simmons and others like Johnny B. Moore, Lee “Shot” Williams and Eddie King. During that time, he was developing a powerful vocal style mixing soul and gospel and a riveting stage presence. He recorded a 45 in the late ’70s, called “Ada,” that received a lot of attention. However, after the write-up in Living Blues and a 1977 tour of Europe with Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, and others, Kinds’ career basically stalled.

He relocated to Los Angeles to work with Ike Turner in his studio which didn’t pan out, then eventually moved to Dubuque, Iowa, where he began picking up the pieces. He connected with a local band, the All-Night Riders, and recorded three CDs with them before parting ways in 2008. An appearance at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival with Vernon and Joe Harrington got the attention of Delmark Records, and the result is Kinds’ new Delmark release, Love You From The Top.

Vocally, Kinds has a fervent and expressive style that sometimes will remind you of Syl Johnson or even Magic Sam in its zeal, if not its polish. As a guitarist, he’s just right…..he doesn’t overplay and make things too flashy, and his lead work is tight. His backing players (Al Pool – second guitar, Claude Thomas – drums, Anthony Dotson – bass) are funky and loose, and are complimented by the soaring saxophone of Chicago legend Eddie Shaw on several tracks.

Kinds wrote all 15 of the songs here, including the autobiographical tune, “Mason Dixon Line Blues,” which features one of his best vocal turns on the disc, the hearty title track, one of the four songs that feature Shaw’s tenor sax, and the soulful “I Got A Woman.” “If You Need It,” “Crack Headed Woman,” “Oo Wee Baby” and several other tracks have rhythm roots in Chicago’s West Side sound, and “Take A Look At Yourself” mines the deep soul of Memphis.

The West Side vibe continues on tracks like “Katie,” “Body Slam,” and “Johnnie Mae.” Another highlight is the humorous “I Didn’t Go Home,” about the perils of overindulgence, but for me, the standout track was the slow blues, “My Mama Told Me.” While the entire disc is excellent, everything just seems to fall perfectly into place on this track. Kinds’ impassioned vocals, his stinging lead guitar, and the slow, steady groove make this track required listening.

It’s wonderful to see James Kinds getting another opportunity to shine before a larger audience. Hopefully, he will take advantage of his good fortune and continue to bless us with more great performances and recordings.

--- Graham Clarke


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